John Charles’s impact at Juventus was so great that his name is still uttered in revered tones there today.

“Il Gigante Buono” comes the reply whenever Charles’s name is heard by supporters of the Bianconeri.

They know Charles as ‘The Gentle Giant’ in Turin – the legacy of five goal-filled seasons in which he won three league titles and two Italian Cups and was never booked or sent off.

Charles scored 108 goals in 155 matches between 1957 and 1962 as he became that rarest of British exports – the successful footballer abroad.

So significant was Swansea-born Charles’s Italian job that he was voted Juve’s best ever foreign player when the club celebrated its centenary in 1997.

Charles died seven years later at the age of 72, but it was fitting that Juve qualified to play Real Madrid in his native Wales for this year’s UEFA Champions League title.

“He loved the place,” Charles’s son Mel told Press Association Sport ahead of last night’s showpiece final at the National Stadium of Wales in Cardiff.

File photo April 22, 1957 – On this day, John Charles (second right) scored what proved to be his last goals for Leeds United before his move to Juventus.File photo April 22, 1957 – On this day, John Charles (second right) scored what proved to be his last goals for Leeds United before his move to Juventus.

He was always proud that he was one of the few British players who was a success in Italy

“He went back to Italy a few times after his playing days. He had a lot of friends out there and was always pleased that people remembered watching him play.”

Charles was a Swansea City apprentice before Leeds United lured him away in 1948 at the age of 17.

He had made his debut for club and country by 1950, and was equally adept playing at centre-half or centre-forward.

Charles had scored 157 goals in 297 games when Juventus wrote a cheque for £65,000 for his services in August 1957 – a British transfer record which almost doubled the previous mark.

John Charles was a favourite of the Agnelli family and the Juventus fans during his stay in Italy.John Charles was a favourite of the Agnelli family and the Juventus fans during his stay in Italy.

The goals and trophies just kept coming for Charles in Turin.

So, too, the trappings of success when the maximum wage for players back home was set at £17 per week.

“I was born in 1956, so unfortunately I was too young to watch my dad play for Juventus,” said Mel, who spent his formative years in Italy with brothers Terry and Peter.

“But I have wonderful memories of living in a villa overlooking Turin and a maid looking after all of us. The place was fantastic and they couldn’t do enough for my dad and all the family.”

Charles was an engaging character who was admired for refusing to lash out at the often illicit attentions of Italian defenders.

He was a favourite of the Agnelli family, Juve’s main benefactors, and his love of life in Italy also saw him record, with some success, the song Sixteen Tons.

“I think it got to number two in the Chinese charts,” laughs Mel.

“But dad loved the people and playing football in Italy. He was always proud that he was one of the few British players who was a success in Italy.”

Charles returned to Leeds United in 1962 and also had spells at Roma, Cardiff and Hereford before retiring.

He later went into management at Hereford and Merthyr as well as the pub trade in Leeds before his death in February 2004.

File photo May 28, 2011 - Barcelona's David Villa reacting after scoring his side's third goal against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.File photo May 28, 2011 - Barcelona's David Villa reacting after scoring his side's third goal against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

Five other classic European Cup finals in the UK

Real Madrid played Juventus in last night’s Champions League final at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium. The match was the first time Wales had hosted the European Cup final, although England and Scotland have regularly the showpiece event more than once. Here, PA Sport’s Joe Neadley looks back at five memorable European finals played in the UK.

1960 – Hampden Park, Scotland

Real Madrid vs Eintracht Frankfurt – 7-3

▪ Real Madrid also featured in the very first European Cup final to be staged in the UK, with the Spanish giants coming out on top in a 10-goal thriller.

Los Blancos clinched their fifth consecutive European title thanks to a hat-trick from Alfredo Di Stefano and four goals from Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas.

Richard Kress had given the German’s an early lead in the match, but they were swiftly overpowered by one of the greatest sides ever assembled, in front of a crowd of 127,621.

1968 – Wembley Stadium, England

Manchester United vs Benfica – 4-1

▪ Manchester United became the first English club to lift the European title courtesy of a Bobby Charlton brace.

George Best and Brian Kidd also scored to see off the Portuguese champions, who had equalised through Jaime Graca.

Alex Stepney made a key save from Eusebio as United triumphed 10 years after the Munich air disaster.

1978 – Wembley Stadium, England

Liverpool vs Club Brugge – 1-0

▪ A decade later Liverpool became the first British side to retain the trophy.

A goal from future manager Kenny Dalglish was enough for Bob Paisley’s side to overcome their Belgian opponents.

Defender Phil Thompson made a crucial goal-line clearance 10 minutes from time to preserve the Reds’ lead and Ray Clemence also produced an important late save.

2002 – Hampden Park, Scotland

Real Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen – 2-1

▪ This was a game remembered for Zinedine Zidane’s spectacular winning goal. Raul’s eighth-minute opener was swiftly cancelled out by Lucio’s header before the French midfielder settled the contest on the stroke of half-time.

A high cross from Roberto Carlos fell to Zidane on the edge of the area and he twisted to fire a spectacular left-footed volley into the top corner as Real collected a ninth European title.

2011 – Wembley Stadium, England

Barcelona vs Manchester United – 3-1

▪ The second most recent final to be staged on British soil saw United picked apart by Barcelona.

Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets dominated the midfield as Barca enjoyed almost two thirds of the possession in the first Champions League final held at the new Wembley. Goals from Pedro, an unstoppable Lionel Messi, and David Villa secured Barcelona’s third title in six years, after Wayne Rooney’s equaliser for United.

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